Cleaner in court over thefts from clients, haul included a Victoria Cross

Warwick Crown Court. NNL-160305-123159001
Warwick Crown Court. NNL-160305-123159001

A cleaner stole property worth tens of thousands of pounds, including jewellery and a Victoria Cross, from the homes of families she worked for, a court has heard.

Clair Jones was caught after one of her victims discovered a necklace was missing and contacted the cleaning company she worked for.

And at Warwick Crown Court Jones, 42, of Woodway Park, Rugby, pleaded guilty to six charges of theft from six different customers.

But, following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report, the court heard she now disputes the values put on the property she stole – and wants to change one of her pleas to not guilty.

Prosecutor Priya Bakshi said: “She was employed as a cleaner from January 2015 to clean the homes of six families, and she was often in their homes alone.

“Early in April she contacted her employers saying she could not take on any further clients because she was undergoing tests for cancer; and she later said she was leaving due to ill-health.”

Then on July 20 the company was contacted by one of the people she had cleaned for, an 83-year-old woman, who said a necklace was missing from her home.

Other families also then found property missing from their homes, including jewellery, watches, wallets, a flute and medals including a Victoria Cross .

The police were contacted, and when officers went to Jones’s caravan home to arrest her they found medals and watches from her haul.

But when she was interviewed she denied stealing the items, claiming she and her husband had been to a car boot sale where she had bought some of the medals for £10.

In a later interview, after she had been arrested over more of the offences, she claimed she had been trying to protect someone over the war memorabilia, and that that person must have stolen the items and put them in her caravan.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC observed: “Blame was placed on others, and someone else was arrested and interviewed.”

Of Jones’s victims, the court heard that that one woman said she had received £14,000 from her insurance company, but that no payment was made in respect of other items worth around £30,000 including the Victoria Cross.

Four more had jewellery and other property worth between £380 and £1,500 stolen by Jones, who had previous convictions for dishonesty, while the sixth lost a £500 Tag Heuer watch.

But Marcus Harry, defending, said the figure he had discussed with the prosecution was ‘considerably less’ because it had been based on what the insurance company had paid out.

The Judge commented: “The insurance company only paid out for some of the jewellery. The medals that were taken were unable to be covered - and the reason is that a Victoria Cross would be nigh-on uninsurable.”

Following an adjournment to speak to Jones, Mr Harry asked for the case to be adjourned for a ‘trial of issue’ over the property said to have been stolen and its valuation.

And he added that Jones also wanted to apply to vacate her guilty plea to the theft of the Tag Heuer watch.

Judge Lockhart said: “It is absolutely essential someone is sentenced on the correct basis - but the papers were clear, and there was no basis of plea.”

But he agreed to adjourn for further consideration to be given to an application for Jones to be allowed to vacate her plea and to decide whether there should be a trial of issue, and Jones was granted bail.